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The CGW Hall of Fame Achives


War in Russia

Prior to War in Russia, gamers who wanted to play strategic-level games that covered the entire Eastern Front were restricted to massive boardgame designs which covered two or three cafeteria-sized tables at a game convention. Computer games were by and large limited to smaller actions where tactics were all-important and a strategic perspective either non-existent or so abstracted that the strategic-level gamers felt the computer format was unsuited to the depiction of large actions. With War in Russia, the first "monster" game on the computer, Gary Grigsby was able to present theater-wide action on a wide-scale and give individual gamers the thrill of being the theater commander for the first time. Experienced gamers came to discover that the AI could be faked out easily in an early move of subterfuge, but the game continued to have popularity because of its scale, subject matter and suitability for playing by mail (i.e. the save positions were in the right spot for players to be able to save their move, send a disk and wait for the return of the disk for their next move) or email (sending saved game files at a rapid 300 baud per second). It was popular among wargamers for as long as the Apple II remained alive, and it provided some of the initial research for Grigsby's later Second Front and War in Russia on the IBM, though neither had the same game mechanics.

WarCraft II

Whether WarCraft II is better than Command & Conquer is a matter of personal taste. Both games are largely responsible for the real-time craze. While each owes its origins to Dune II, WarCraftII carved out its own destiny, exchewing the military theme of C&C; for a fantasy motif. Moreover, WarCraft II added new depth to the real-time model with a more sophisticated economic model. WarCraft II created a second school of real-time gaming, one that still included the quick-thinking tactical aspect of C&C;, but also added far-reaching strategy in the form of upgrades, spells, and technology research. It's a more cerebral, resource-management-heavy model. WarCraft II was noteworthy for its incredibly intuitive interface (remember the novelty of that smart right-click command?), amazing polished SVGA graphics, and its simple, yet robust scenario editor.

More than anything, however, WarCraft II will always be remembered for its engaging personality. The designers added many delightful little details to make the world of Azeroth come alive. Each unit had its own quirky voice (or grunt), and the goblin alchemist's shop in the snow levels even sported Christmas lights. We could go on, but suffice it to say that this game had it all: incredible gameplay, great graphics, fantastic multiplayer support, and unmatched personality. There can be no question that WarCraft II belongs with the very best in the CGW Hall of Fame.


It is difficult to speak of computer role-playing games without invoking the venerable title, Wasteland. This post-holocaust adventure was set in the Mojave Desert regions of California, Nevada and Arizona where the players were "rangers," the last remnant of law and order, trying to solve a mystery involving both massive atomic mutations and an incursion of aliens circa 1950 'B' drive-in movies. The game proved the value of a skill-based role-playing system and created interesting algorithms for handling the non-player characters. One couldn't simply strip the NPCs of their items as in other games; the NPCs had "minds" of their own. Further, although the game was combat-intensive and used a computerized form of Michael Stackpole's combat-rich Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes game system, it was replete with ethical dilemmas and non-combat puzzle-solving of the most devious sort. The story was written by Mike Stackpole, and many of the maps were fleshed out by veteran game designers like Liz Danforth and Ken St. Andre. Now, years later, Wasteland is still held with great esteem by CGW's readers.

Wing Commander
PUBLISHER: Origin System | RELEASE DATE: 1990

The original Wing Commander had little pretense of being a "space simulation." Action lovers, though, could have hardly asked for a more streamlined space shoot-'em-up than Chris Roberts' original design in the series. While any attempt at a flight model in space would have been ridiculed, the game's engine pushed the hardware of the time by offering smoother performance than many more realistic polygon-filled flight sims. When you threw in the beautifully-rendered bitmap overlays-at the time beyond anything else on the market-the game's visceral appeal was enough to win over even the most die-hard simulation addicts.

And what action! The WC universe was fast-paced, and so internally consistent that it allowed you to shoot anything-even your fellow pilots or your mother ship. The now-familiar "branching plot tree" was introduced here by Origin, adding depth and elements of adventure to the intense joystick action of the combat sequences. The "hot washup" scenes, winding down in the bar of the Carrier Tiger's Claw, discussing Kilrathi tactics and the progress of the war, seem corny now. But at the time of the game's release, they offered a welcome respite between frantic missions, and did a good job of portraying your shipmates as something other than AI loops. As the production values rise with each new Wing Commander release, it would be easy to dismiss the original as outdate. Quaint though it might seem, however, Wing Commander is still a model of how to take a vision and develop it into a virtually seamless and purely enjoyable game.

Wing Commander II
PUBLISHER: Origin System | RELEASE DATE: 1991

How do you follow one of the most successful computer games of all time? If you're Origin, you do it with a high-powered sequel that manages to surpass the original. Chris Roberts' dream had always been to bring intense dog-fighting space sequences of his favorite sci-fi movies to the computer screen. And while Roberts' cinematic aspirations wouldn't reach fruition until Wing Commanders III and IV, the seeds were definitely sown in Wing Commaner II.

The strong script found Origin's writers at their peak. The characters are more well-rounded than those of WC I: Spirit's calm demeanor and acceptance of duty, for example, actually make you believe in her "warrior's code" of honor. Other supporting characters are by turns arrogant, demanding, confused, even vulnerable. It wasn't Faust, but the story was darker and deeper than before, adding to the sense of grand galactic battle-especially since we were able to glimpse the Kilrathi behind-the-scenes, and find out that they were as quirky, insecure, and arrogant as the space-faring humans. Although it is rare to find sequels in our Hall of Fame, Wing Commander II deserves the honor, if only because it did everything the original did, with a more confident touch. The wrist-wracking action of the original was even more wrist-wracking. The enemy pilots were improved (but still somewhat predictable compared to modern sims). The sound effects were so well done that they inspired many gamers to try their first sound card; arguably, this is the "killer application" that helped to put Sound Blaster on the map.

Wing Commander III
PUBLISHER: Origin System | RELEASE DATE: 1994

Chris Roberts was the first designer to pull off the "interactive movie" concept with Wing Commander III. With previously unmatched cinematics wrapped around a groundbreaking 3D space sim, Origin managed to delicately balance gameplay and story. With a cadre of familiar actors including Mark Hamill (Star Wars), Malcom McDowell (Star Trek: Generations), and Ginger Lynn Allen (On Golden Blonde), Wing III's video sequences actually ranked up there with the best B-movie sci-fi. Sure, the Kilrathi suits looked a bit too cuddly, like Maine Coon Cats who've had one can too many of Beef and Liver, but overall the movie sequences did a great job of pulling you into the story and giving you the feeling that you had a vested interest in winning the Kilrathi war. And unlike previous interactive movies, the gameplay didn't suffer in the name of "art." Wing III's interactive space combat segments were unmatched-two years later there was still little room for improvement in Wing IV. Fast, 3D space combat; good pilot AI; and crisp hi-res graphics made for some very intense missions. But the real key was the association of your performance in space combat with what was happening back on your ship-losing a wingman could have a significant effect on the storyline. Wing Commander III still holds its own against competing titles.


Wizardry was almost an instant classic. It offered a first-person perspective dungeon crawl using line and fill technology, as well as role-playing characteristics, spells, and skills with which "people and paper" role-players could identify. Forcing players to save games at "ins" reinforced the suspended disbelief that you were actually exploring a dungeon in a real world where your character had real needs. The Wizardry series is, of course, one of the Big Three role-playing epics in computer gaming, along with the Ultima and Might & Magic series.

Wolfenstein 3D

Wolfenstein 3D is the grandfather of 3D shooters like Duke Nukem 3D and Quake. If you had to put it on the evolutionary chart, it would go somewhere between homo erectus and penicillin (there's a pun there somewhere, but we're not looking). The original CastleWolfenstein had you running around in an old castle guarded by Nazi jailers. Fairly typical of early Apple II games, it was soon forgotten. Wolfenstein 3D took the simple line-and-fill graphic mazes of the earlier game and transformed them into a smooth-scrolling, rapid-fire, texture mapped environment. The details of the castle were fewer than those of Ultima Underworld, but they featured Nazi banners, stained glass windows starring old harelip himself, and lots of nice touches like chandeliers and coats of armor. Gamers hungry for action quickly warmed to the fast pace of the game, accentuated by the large active area of the screen, and the excellent use of sound and perspective-all of which would later be perfected with id's masterpiece, Doom. Although newer, sexier 3D games have no replaced Wolfenstein as the fastest adrenaline pumpers around, the game should be remembered for putting shareware back on the gaming map, and for sparking a first-person shooting craze that lives to this day.


Certainly, gaming products from Europe have had success on these shores, but the greatest hits back then were puzzle/action affairs, such as Magic Carpet, or Lemmings. Who would have believed, especially given the subject matter-bug-eyed monsters with zap guns-that the Brits could corner the more cerebral market of turn-based strategy games?

X-Com arrived totally unheralded, and many gamers figured that it would be a mere rehash of Laser Squad. Certainly, concepts like hidden movement and opportunity fire have been around for ages, yet rarely have they been so well employed in a man-to-man tactical combat game. Soldiers statistics improved with time-provided they survived-adding a welcome element of role-playing. The alien opponents were creepy, challenging, and on the higher levels, downright merciless. The insidious mind-control of the alien leaders drove more than one gamer to psi-frustration, and the horror of watching Chryssalids transform members of your squad into aliens gave more than one X-Com commander nightmares.

The strategic shell was surprisingly robust, as you were forced to balance economic and political concerns in order to field your X-Com operatives and defend Earth's nations. Researching exotic alien technologies recalled the joys of Civilization, while the variety of weaponry could keep any space marine ferreting out Sectoids from UFOs until well into the 21st century. X-Com is a great game which proves that pushing the technological envelope is often less important than stoking the gamer's competitive fire.

You Don't Know Jack
PUBLISHER: Berkeley Systems | RELEASE DATE: 1996

Every company strives for a mainstream gaming hit, yet most attempts fail miserably. Back in early 1996, however, Berkeley Systems and Jellyvision combined their talents in You Don't Know Jack, a game that managed to appeal to both hard-core enthusiasts and newcomers alike.

Because Jack was ostensibly based on a recognizable medium-the cheesy television game show-it immediately drew a huge audience. Jack kept everyone coming back for more through a combination of highly addictive gameplay and irreverent humor. The designers reveled in turning trivia-game convention on its ear and introducing new categories, such as the gibberish question (where you had to decipher with what a certain sentence rhymed: "A fiddle nerd sold pee," for example, would translate as "A little bird told me"). Jack is the perfect example of a game that can appeal to non-traditional computer gamers. Not only is it a fabulous single-player experience, it's also the ultimate party game. When Jack came out, the old CGW rule about leaving your work at work was forgotten: friends and family begged editors to bring the game home for weekends.

You Don't Know Jack has spawned a number of successful sequels and not-so-successful competitors, but it's the original we reward here for its irreverence, its freshness, and its take-no-prisoners attitude. Like Tetris before it, You Don't Know Jack is one Puzzle/Classics game that broke the mold-and had a lot of fun doing it.


Inspired by the famous "Adventure" game by Crowther and Woods that had proliferated on mainframes everywhere, the MIT graduates who founded Infocom uncovered The Great Underground Empire of Zork and first brought it to a home computer in 1981. With this fabulous adventure as its cornerstone, Infocom established a rich genre of text games where the "graphics" were painted in the mind, not the computer screen. The classic Infocom games became the benchmarks for puzzle-driven adventure games, and the lavish touches of zany humor provided just enough comic relief whenever the gamer felt most frustrated. ZIL (Zork Interactive Language), the DEC-based development tools with which Infocom games were built, was remarkable for its cross-platform capability and, as a result, Infocom was able to publish their games on more unique platforms than any contemporary game company. Although the text interface was often clumsy, the prose was certainly not; in fact we're still waiting for a game to match the writing quality and story-telling power of these games.

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